With his detached artfulness, Anton Chekhov creates conflicts within a seemingly complacent marriage, conflicts that are generated by the idea of money. For, when the middle-class Ivan Dmitritch, who is "well satisfied with his lot" sits one evening with his wife who asks him to check the list of winners for the lottery because she has purchased a ticket, his normal scepticism in such matters changes as he locates her series number on the list of winners. When the number is actually listed, Ivan Dmitritch lowers the paper to his lap without checking the individual number of the ticket.
...he felt an agreeable chill in the pit of the stomach; tingling and terrible and sweet!
He tells his wife the number is listed, and she asks, "And the number of the ticket?" but he does not look yet; instead, to her delight as well, the idea of
torment[ing] and tantaliz[ing] oneself with hopes of possible fortune is so sweet, so thrilling!
The idea so excites the couple that they entertain it momentarily, laughing and then looking silently at each other. It is at this point of introspection that the conflicts begin.
At first Ivan Dmitritch speaks aloud, conceding that it is his wife's ticket, but if it were his, he says, he would buy property and save the rest in the bank. However, while his wife enjoys these thoughts as well, she sits down, "dropping her hands in her lap" and entertains her own dreams as Ivan Dmitritch develops images in his own mind. When he interrupts his reverie and tells his wife, "I should go abroad, you know, Masha...," his wife counters that she, too, would go abroad. Since they do not mention doing this together, the husband and wife begin to pull away from each other in their thoughts. After some moments,
...he looked at his wife, not with a smile now, but with hatred. She glanced at him too, and also with hatred and anger. She knew who would be the first to try and grab her winnings....
Comprehending her look, her husband feels hatred stirring within him; so, in order to antagonize her, he quickly looks at the number for the winning ticket and reads it: "number 46! Not 26!" As the "hatred and hope both disappear," something has changed in their relationship, and the husband feels a great disappointment and discontent with his life.
The internal conflicts arise from the interior action of the story. Ivan Dmitritch takes himself from his banal existence to one of romantic interludes with "careless women who live in the present" and the enjoyment of spending money without worry or complaint from his wife. Further, he is repulsed by the idea of having to deal with the "oily, hypocritical" relatives of his wife if they win the lottery, an idea that causes him to resent his wife more.
And his wife's face, too, struck him as repulsive and hateful.
The wife, too, entertains her own thoughts which develop in a negative pattern, as well, for she, too, looks at her husband with hatred.
"It's very nice making daydreams at other people's expense!" is what her eyes expressed.
After their private thoughts of greed [internal conflicts] evolve into resentment and hatred [external conflicts] for each other, the relationship of husband and wife, once content together, has irrevocably deteriorated. Indeed, the promise of wealth has effected a tremendous change in their hearts.